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"It's Thanksgiving" Against the Grain
Matt Harkins
| November 21, 2012
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If y'all haven't heard, the people who bought you Rebecca Black's Friday are at it again.  It's Thanksgiving (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSBq8geuJk0) puts their newest talent on display: Nicole Westbrook.  Patrice Wilson, the guy that some know as "Fat Usher" from the Friday video, broke off from ARK Music Factory last year to form PMW Live, and It's Thanksgiving represents his first major breakthrough.  Much was made of potential hidden symbolism and meaning beneath the superficial video and lyrics.  Some said that it was meant to be a warning about the potential accuracy of the Mayan calendar "end of the world' predictions, others said it was about JFK's assassination, while I personally thought that the beacon at the end of the video was meant to draw attention to the parallels between the lyrics and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

It's Thanksgiving continues down this path.  Many commenters on YouTube have failed to grasp the sophistication in the imagery and lyrics.  Confused critics have submitted comments ranging in anger from "the only thing that amuses me about this video is the dislike count," "kill it with fire before it lays eggs," and "kill me."  These uninformed music consumers need to analyze the song against the grain to gain powerful insights about the unfortunate power of rigid norms in society.

The lyrics start out with an assortment of "oh's" and "woah's," which, at surface level seem to be gleeful shouts meant to greet Thanksgiving morning.  These lyrics actually represent lamentations at cultural repetition and ritual, and the evidence is clear.  First, one ought to examine Ms. Westbrook's facial expressions.  They appear constantly strained throughout the video, most flagrantly at: 36, 1:24, and 1:29.  These facial expressions are an outward expression of Ms. Westbrook’s internal discontent. 

The theme of facial mismatch with lyrical content continue a few lines later: “it’s Thanksgiving. We we we we are gonna have a good time."  One watching the video would certainly not believe Ms. Westbrook if she were to speak these words in conversation.  It's as if a child was told a lie, and, due to inexperience, the lie was poorly delivered.  Ms. Westbrook is unable to keep up the act for long, as her initial reaction to the traditional cranberry gelatin elicits intense disgust.  It’s important to note that this display is an immediate reflex.  She has no time to think about how her actions will be perceived by society, the thoughts on her mind are explicitly and honestly expressed for everyone to see.

As the song goes through a litany of American holidays: "December was Christmas. January was New Year. April was Easter. And the 4th of July, but now it’s Thanksgiving."  There is quite a mechanical nature to the progression.  No time is devoted to describing the various redeeming qualities of the holidays, most likely because such a feat would bring too many latent melancholic emotions from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind.  This is not the only example, however.  Ms. Westbrook also lists all of the traditional Thanksgiving fixings and punctuates them with what sounds like an "eh."  Ms. Westbook is clearly tired of doing the same thing on the same Thursday in the same month year after year.  Culture has dictated one particular mode of living for its members, and any deviation from the norm is neither pursued nor even considered.  This creates a bland lifestyle and captivates the creative mind that wishes to “go its own way” as Fleetwood Mac might say.

At 2:16, a dinner guest changes the game.  Friend of the show and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek might describe this guest, offering a barbecued pork rib for dinner, as committing “The Act.”  The Act is a concept propagated by Jacques Lacan which outlines a strategy for revolution.  This strategy involves a level of self-denial and sacrifice with the goal of breaking through drudgery—exemplified well in this case (the traditional Thanksgiving that I’m familiar with is near and dear to my heart, but I’m going to change it up regardless of the result).  Ms. Wesbrook continues this subversive strategy with her secular rap about the good parts of Thanksgiving which takes the place of the “normal” Christian prayer before meals.  It’s clear that this pathway is beneficial for all.  Ms. Westbrook takes a picture of her entourage, all displaying smiling happy faces.  If you don’t believe me, just look at the little girl’s adorable smile while spooning peas onto her plate at 3:05. 

We all have a lesson to learn from Ms. Westbook and company.  Too often, members of society go through the culturally prescribed ways of living throughout the season.  Fortune favors the bold, and if you haven’t changed up your Thanksgiving celebrations in a while, try radically altering your identity through sacrificing the safety of ritual and do something new.  If you don’t, you may end up with the inner anguish that Ms. Westbook exhibited throughout the first half of the video.

That’s my interpretation—what do you all think?  Did I leave out an important detail that changes the meaning?  Was I spot on?  Comment with your thoughts.

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